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Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Counter-narcotic efforts and their effects in Nangarhar and Helmand in the 2010-1011 growing season

This paper contrasts the socio-economic and political developments that have taken place in the opium growing provinces of Nangarhar and Helmand in the 2010-11 growing season. Both provinces have cultivated significant amounts of opium poppy over the last 15 years but are currently located at quite different points on the trajectory toward being “poppy free.” After being declared poppy free in 2008 following successive years of low cultivation, Nangarhar is now experiencing a resurgence in cultivation along its southern borders with Pakistan. Meanwhile, in Helmand—where cultivation has been heavily concentrated for well over a decade—there have been some dramatic reductions in cultivation over the last season. This paper charts the reasons for the different outlook for opium production in these two provinces. Specifically, it explores whether there are lessons to be drawn from the socio-economic and political processes involved that might inform both drug control and stabilisation efforts in the run up to transition in 2014.

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